“Indeed, Allah does not forgive association with Him, but He forgives what is less than that for whom He wills. And he who associates others with Allah has certainly fabricated a tremendous sin.” – (The Holy Qur’an 4:48)
‘Shirk’ literally means associating a partner or believing in a plurality of creators. In Islamic terminology, it means to associate somebody or something with Allah or to regard them as Allah’s equal. One who does ‘Shirk’ is called a Mushrik or polytheist. It is the opposite of ‘Tawhid’ (Islamic Monotheism, Oneness of Allah). Shirk is the foremost sin in Islam because associating something or someone with Allah and considering them as Allah’s equal would be the foremost lie.
Almighty Allah said:
Say, “He is Allah, [who is] One, Allah, the Eternal Refuge. He neither begets nor is born, Nor is there to Him any equivalent.” (The Holy Qur’an 112:1–4)
So believing there is someone who is Allah’s equal and they both contributed equally in creating everything would be the biggest lie. The reason why so many prophets were sent to earth was to establish this very truth. Believing in a falsehood is a sin, and likewise mixing truth with falsehood is also considered a sin.
And say, “Truth has come, and falsehood has departed. Indeed is falsehood, [by nature], ever bound to depart.” (The Holy Qur’an 17:81)
“…There is nothing like unto Him, and He is the Hearing, the Seeing.” – (The Holy Qur’an 42:11)
Allah wants that we humans return to Allah by knowing the truth in their hearts, not harbouring falsehood. Truth gives you confidence. If you’re with the truth, it will give you reassurance that nothing will happen to you and you won’t be worried about punishment on the day of Judgement. In fact, it is Allah the most Merciful who is the true Creator. What can be greater oppression on the part of one than raising a partner with Allah? Muslims have to be aware of ‘Shirk’. If one commits Shirk by mistake, he must repent and pledge to Allah that never to repeat again.
‘Shirk’ has a domino effect on life. First of all, it is falsehood and it invites other false things in your life (false deities, gods, items, and rituals). You might do a lot of good in your life but nothing matters because you’re sitting on the biggest lie of all. So shirk invalidates every other good work.
“O People of the Scripture, why do you confuse the truth with falsehood and conceal the truth while you know [it]?” (The Holy Qur’an 3:71)
There are basically 3 types of Shirk.
1) Major Shirk:
a) Invoking, supplicating or praying to other deities beside Allah.
“And when they board a ship, they supplicate Allah, sincere to Him in religion. But when He delivers them to the land, at once they associate others with Him” (The Holy Qur’an 29:65)
b) Absolute obedience to any authority or religious figures sidestepping the orders/laws of Allah. Rabbis and Priests made many unlawful things legal and many lawful things unlawful throughout history. Unfortunately, Jews and Christians are now their biggest victims.
“They have taken their scholars and monks as lords besides Allah,…” (The Holy Qur’an Surah Tawba/Repentance: 31)
2) Minor Shirk:
a) Intentions, purpose and determination in acts of worship or religious deeds not for the sake of Allah but directed to please others (i.e acts performed to show off).
“Indeed, the hypocrites [think to] deceive Allah, but He is deceiving them. And when they stand for prayer, they stand lazily, showing [themselves to] the people and not remembering Allah except a little,” (The Holy Qur’an 4:142)
3) Inconspicuous Shirk:
Many Muslims forget that visiting graves and shrines in order to ask something from the deceased (through the deceased) is a type of Shirk (They might not entirely aware of this). Actually, graves are nothing but a reminder that one day we will also die and return to Allah.